Even though I claim to love spontaneity, I constantly have to fight the part of me that wants to snatch the reins and muscle my way back to the schedule I wrote down in the morning. Anybody else have this problem? I’ve learned, however, that when I finally do let go and see where life takes me, my experiences always tend to be more interesting than what I planned. This past Thursday, for example…
Here was my plan: go downtown and eat lunch in a plaza while listening to live music, spend hours perusing a couple of museums by myself, then find a nice park and do some writing in solitude before going to a Spanish worship service near my house.
An elderly Chinese man was the first to foil my day of leisurely browsing. On the bus into town, I was treated to a Reader’s Digest version of his life—which was, I’ll admit, quite interesting. When we arrived downtown, he insisted on accompanying me through Chinatown (wait, what about the concert??), so we walked through the quiet streets as he beamed and repeated to me several times “this is Chinatown.” Despite my packed lunch, he shanghaied me into a hole-in-the-wall restaurant and proceeded to order several dishes, urging me to try everything and complimenting me on my use of chopsticks: “it’s hard, yes? But you do very well!! Eat more! I not do so well, see?” (this while showing me a finger that had been sliced off at the top knuckle). Don’t even ask me what I ate, because I haven’t the faintest idea. Then we went through the newspapers and he translated some headlines, wondering if we had the word “Congress” in English.
Still digesting whatever delicious thing it was that I ate, I left him at a bus stop and proceeded to the first museum, which specialized in 3D artwork and was currently showing a series of medical illustrations. I think I spent more time talking to the two very casual hosts and watching 3D films with a couple of guys from England than I did contemplating the deep meaning in any of the artwork.
At the second museum, I skipped the first floor entirely to use the bathroom, then got distracted by the hands-on weaving demonstration. For several hours, I sat at the table with an intern from PSU who specialized in textiles, a young girl whose grandmother made quilts for men’s shelters and a cardboard loom, chatting away happily until I realized that I was going to have to leave immediately if I wanted to make it to the evening worship service.
Upon leaving the museum, I learned that it was the one evening of the month that all the galleries were open, and the streets were thus filled with carousing as people made their way from gallery to gallery with wine glasses in hand. Need I say that I decided to stay?
I met a painter from Peru who was excited about his forthcoming show in the Portland Art Museum, learned a lot about symbolism in Tibetan Buddhist artwork, laughed and bantered with a guy selling jewelry who worked as a translator and whose business card proclaimed that he specialized in “leisure and adventure,” and generally enjoyed the festivities and the many musicians (including a bagpiper) who flooded the streets and galleries with music.
Despite arriving home four hours later than planned, it was somehow very hard to regret my abandoned plans after a day like that. They’re more like guidelines, anyway.